For Beginners: How to Ship on Etsy

Reading time: 9 minutes

Are you new and wondering how to ship on Etsy? That’s a common question people ask Google. It’s natural to think that having an Etsy shop is all about being creative. But unless they only sell digital downloads, every Etsy seller is in the mail order business. So, when you’re ready to embark on your online selling adventure, here are some basics. And as well, some insider tips from the experienced Etsy sellers on staff at eRank.

Start with your shipping profiles

If you’re in the US and ship your orders with the United States Postal Service (USPS) or Global Postal Shipping, or you’re in Canada and use Canada Post, you can start simple.

Calculated shipping

Choose calculated shipping in your Etsy settings. It automates pricing based on your location, the package’s destination, and package size and weight. It even calculates what size shipping box you’ll need!

For this option, you will need an accurate postal scale. If you will only be shipping small items and already have a food scale, that will work. But for heavier items, you’ll need a postal scale. One that’s $20-30 new is fine.

Processing time

For calculated shipping, you will also need to enter your processing time. Processing time is not the same thing as shipping time. Rather, it is the time you need between when you get the order notification and when you can mail it. Are your items already made and ready to ship? Then you can go by how long it will take to package it and hand off to your carrier.

But if your items are “made to order,” then calculating processing time is trickier. Generally, for safety, it’s a good idea to pad your processing time. Add at least a few extra days for domestic orders and extra weeks for international orders. The rule to follow here is “Under Promise and Over Deliver.” In this context, it means that a customer who receives their item earlier than expected will be pleased. A customer who receives their order late will not be.

Buyers can preview shipping costs for your listings that have calculated shipping by entering either a zip/postal code or country. We default to the least expensive shipping method that is eligible for the total weight and dimensions of the item.

excerpt from Etsy Seller Handbook article, “How to Set Up Calculated Shipping”

Flat rate shipping (US and Canadian sellers only)

No shipping scale yet? Another simple option for US sellers that’s ideal for beginners is flat-rate shipping. USPS will supply free boxes and cardboard envelopes. They even deliver these supplies to your home, no charge. And they’re super easy to use!

With flat rate shipping, the price you pay for shipping is not connected to the weight or dimensions of the shipped item. It’s based on how much you can stuff into the USPS-issued box. Regardless of the item’s weight, if it fits into the box, it’ll have the same rate country-wide. This shipping strategy makes pricing quotes easy for you. But note that flat-rate shipping is only available for Priority Express or Priority shipping.

Canadian sellers also have Flat Rate shipping! It’s through Canada Post for domestic shipping within Canada. You do need to pay for the shipping cartons though, and the package must be 5kg or under.

If you prefer to set your own shipping rates

You can use Etsy’s “Price Your Postage” tool to help determine costs if you use the USPS, or the “Price Your Shipping tool” for Canada Post rates. (Both are linked below under Resources.)

Alternatively, use weight/size tiers as defined by your favorite shipping company. Tiers are accurate, but they will take extra time on your part. Every package will have a unique price you will need to upload to the listing.

Don’t forget to offer upgrades to your customers!

Priority or Priority Express shipping can be a service you offer for an extra fee. Make sure to specify all shipping information and upgrades in your shipping profile. Customers can choose these at checkout.

Pro tip! If you choose to offer premium shipping, your items need to be ready to ship. And you must be able to package and ship same day. Customers who pay a premium for fast shipping have higher expectations which you need to meet.

And note that USPS doesn’t promise to get the Priority or Express package there on time. They only promise to refund the cost of premium shipping if they don’t. Yet customers who choose premium shipping tend to hold you the seller accountable. And they can leave feedback that reflects this.

Fill out your shipping policy

Be sure to fill out your shop policies before you open your Etsy shop! And in the shipping section, be transparent with shipping times. You can also use the space in your FAQ section. Use this as a chance to manage expectations. Give your customers a general idea of when they might receive an item based on their location. Be honest with the times so that no one feels frustrated with late packages. Remember: under promise, over deliver. Especially as the annual holiday season approaches. Expectations are always higher then and delays far more frequent.

Pro tip! Once annual holiday shipping deadlines are announced, pad them! Add at least a week or two. Then post these as holiday shipping deadlines. Put them in your FAQs, your Shop Announcement, and your listing descriptions. Use one of your 10 photo slots. You can’t have it in too many places!

Note too that it may not be just you who’s learning how to ship on Etsy. Your customer may be new to the process as well. Let your customers know that any shipping questions are welcome. Another pro tip! View communication as an opportunity to form and shape the buyer / seller relationship. Repeat buyers are gold!

Packaging for shipping

Gather your shipping supplies before you open. Get boxes, padded envelopes, tape, printer paper. Figure out what your product will require to arrive in pristine condition. Called “dunnage” in the trade, it’s the padding used to protect goods during shipping. It could be bubble wrap, packing peanuts, air pillows. Or choose twists of kraft paper, double-boxing and other environmentally friendly alternatives.

Optimally, set up a dedicated area for packaging for shipping. Have these materials within easy reach. Always order more supplies well before you need them! You want to be ready for the next shipment.

Always include a packing list with your package

Why? Because labels can be damaged or torn off in the mailing process. Nearby packages can leak and render them illegible. So, when a label is missing or can’t be read, carriers do their best. They will open a package to try to determine the recipient’s address. But if there is no packing slip, the package goes into a “dead letter” pile and likely never finds its way out.

Equally important! Packing slips serve to remind the customer what they ordered, and from whom. Experienced sellers have found that the number of convos (and bad feedback!) lessened once they added packing slips to shipments. You can also use them to hand-write a quick “Thank You”.

Consider adding other personal touches:

  • a business card with your Etsy shop branding and logo
  • care / cleaning instructions
  • discount code for their next purchase from your shop

Etsy allows you to offer gift wrapping and to charge the customer extra for it. Some Etsy sellers include free gift wrapping as a way to set their shop apart. Do you sell items at a higher price point? Items which make great gifts? If your margin allows, consider whether complimentary gift wrapping makes sense for your shop.

Purchasing shipping labels

Where Etsy labels are available, many sellers find Etsy labels to be the simplest option. Are you in the United States, Canada, UK, Australia or India? If you accept Etsy Payments or PayPal as a payment method, you can use Etsy labels.

Here are some reasons to use Etsy labels:

  • Etsy labels help prevent data-entry errors – on your part, or the customer’s. When a US-based buyer enters an address, Etsy verifies that the address matches the address on file with the USPS. If not, a suggested address will be presented to the buyer. And when you go to purchase an Etsy label, the same thing happens for any address not verified by the buyer. This measure ensures the USPS can deliver to the address provided.
  • You can print them on your own printer, and Etsy automatically deducts their cost from your Etsy balance.
  • You don’t need to go to the post office window, get a tracking number, and then remember to enter it into the order. Etsy will automatically forward it to the customer. And Etsy will notify them that their order is on the way.
  • Save up to 30%. Etsy labels are substantially discounted compared with the price you’d pay retail.

Of course, you can choose to use your own labels and purchase shipping elsewhere. But if they are available in your country, Etsy’s labels make it easy.

Learning how to ship on Etsy gets easier with practice

That said, shipping internationally introduces another level of complexity for some. If you live outside the US and want access to that market, you will need to learn how. But if your domestic market is good in your niche, start with that until you feel confident with the basics.

Remember: you are in the mail order business. Meeting customer expectations in that regard is just as important as their opinion of your product. Clear communication about processing times and shipping times is crucial. Package securely (make it “bomb-proof”). Ship promptly. Once it’s shipped, respond promptly and professionally to convos about its whereabouts. While you cannot control your carrier, Etsy still holds you responsible for shipments until they’re marked delivered. A quality product paired with equally good shipping performance, customer service and fair practices will lead to repeat business and word-of-mouth referrals.


If you ever have any questions about shipping, our private eRank community on Facebook is here for you! With well over 10,000 active members who range from Etsy coaches, veteran Etsy sellers, and beginners from around the globe, someone is always around to offer advice.

Etsy Shipping home page

Etsy Seller Handbook articles:

Etsy’s Price Your Shipping tool for USPS

For Canada

USPS Mail and Shipping Services

Other eRank blog posts for beginner Etsy sellers: